CLEMSON – Past the midpoint of spring practice, now, the fun begins – Monday’s session being the first of three scrimmages in the final stretch.
Name an offensive position – and it’s probably open. And there’s nobody more intrigued by how the final two weeks of the spring will unfold than fourth-year offensive coordinator Chad Morris.
“We’ve had a good eight days of practice,” Morris said Friday after wrapping for the weekend. “This being the first scrimmage being the first time in a game-like setting with the coaches off the field – It’ll be interesting to see.
“We’ll have a better understanding of where we are after Monday. Put these guys through a scrimmage or game-like setting it will be interesting to see. We have a lot of true freshmen on the field now that are getting quality reps. The game is moving awful fast for them but they’re catching on. I’ve been pleased with some of them. The rest of them need to come on, but they are showing improvement.”
All eyes are on the nation’s top incoming dual-threat quarterback, Deshaun Watson – competing two alongside Cole Stoudt and Chad Kelly, in their fourth and third years in Morris’ system respectively.
Morris said all three will get a “fair assessment” sharing equal snaps with the first and second teams in the coming scrimmages. How has Watson earned that kind of respect?
“Just his performance on the field at this point,” said Morris. “It’s still a three-person race. I think all three are working extremely hard. All three of them have had their days. All three of them have had their not so good days. They have all had their ups and downs. We’ll have a better understanding after Monday. We may settle in with a guy the rest of the week after Monday.
“We’ll gauge it and judge. They are all competing hard and I’m proud of all three of them.”
As for the five protecting the lucky one or two in the group come August 30 in Athens, the competition is wide-ranging, and the answers are few.
“There’s a lot of variables,” Morris said. "Lots of variables. We’ve kind of narrowed down to that five in there. A lot of intangibles that go along with it. Moving guys around and trying to figure it out. A lot of time to go to that first ballgame.”
The Tigers’ OC has liked what he’s seen out of the mid-year freshman receivers: Demarre Kitt, Artavis Scott and Kyrin Priester. However, he is looking much, much more from a guy a year and plenty of early playing time in: sophomore Mike Williams.
“Mike struggled early on the spring – about the first five practices,” said Morris of the Lake Marion product, who caught three touchdowns. “I was very disappointed in his performance. I was expecting more out of him being a veteran guy. Over the last three practices he’s had a better week than he’s had the first two weeks. He’s still far from where he needs to be.”
On the other side, name a defensive position – and the competition among multiple vets will be heating up. Third-year defensive coordinator Brent Venables is keeping them on their toes.
“We know what they are capable of doing,” Venables said. “But will we do it again? We’ll see. I’m not assuming anything. We need to get better. Everybody across the board.
“You could go with every single player. We’ve done the evaluations. We stress the things they don’t do so well. We don’t talk about the things they do well. We get these other things corrected we have a to have a good defense. We have the experience and ability. We just have to put it all together and put the work in.”
Venables says there’s plenty encouraging on both sides in spring’s final stretch.
“So far it’s been really pretty good,” he said. “Like all spring, some days you’re at your best. Give and take on both sides. Excited about certain parts of the offense coming along and the challenges they are giving our defense.”
“We like putting those guys in stressful situations to see how they will respond.”